The Influence of The Canaanite Religion on The Theology of Jesus And The New Testament

It has long been known by ancient Near Eastern scholars who concentrate in the Hebrew Bible that early oral traditions were used as major references in shaping the Patriarchal narratives, particularly in the Jacob Cycles (such as noted by Julius Wellhausen (1844 - 1918), Herman Gunkel (1862 - 1932), Martin Noth (1902 -1968)) and thus formed the bases for Israel’s narrative traditions.

In 1928, an Arab peasant plowing the land near a mound struck a slab of stone. Upon raising the stone, he found traces of an ancient tomb with potsherds and small undamaged vessels. The antiquities service in Syria was informed who, in turn notified the French archeologist Mons. Ch. Virolleaud.

The stone that the peasant had hit turned out to be just an ancient necropolis with little promise. However, the archaeologist in the team next turned their attention to an artificial near by mound (named by locals as Ras-ashShamrah), which, when explored, proved to be the site of the ancient city know in texts from Babylonian, Hittite and Egyptian as the city of Ugarit.

Excavation carried out by the French archaeologist Mons. C.F.A. Schaeffer between 1929 and 1939 and then continued after WWII, have unearth thousands of clay tablets around the main library attached to the temple of Baal. The tablets are dated between 1400 and 1350 BCE and are extremely varied in their contents.

The script of the tablets are written in Akkadian, Hurrian and Sumerian, but the native language of the city is a script using the cuneiform symbols based on an alphabetic constant signs now classified in the group of Northwest Semitic languages which predates Hebrew. This language, now know as Ugaritic, is the parent language of the Israelites who are said to have spoken Hebrew.

Because the name of one of the gods in the text was called “Baal” and of whose temple the library it was next to, the city has now been identified with the Canaanites with whom the Israelites are said to have taken the land from to form Israel.

Modern scholars of the Hebrew Bible such as Richard Clifford, Frank M. Cross, Nicholas Wyatt, Mark Smith, John Day, William Dever, J.C. de Moor the late Marvin Pope, C.H Gordon and M. Dahood see a direct connection or continuation of Canaanite stories in the older cycles of the Israelite.

An example here is Psalm 29 which is traditionally assigned to King David, but is basically a reworked Canaanite hymn from Ugarit.

So, did this connection and continuation of Canaanite material end in with the Hebrew Bible or is this tradition (which was once held in high regards by the early Israelites) still able to shape the New Testament? I think so and I list the following:

A. Jesus never calls the deity of his Jewish nation by his personal proper name Yahweh, but simply Theos = El ("El" is Hebrew for god) . El is the same name of the supreme god of the Canaanites at Ugarit.

B. Jesus calls El “Abba” or father: (“And He was saying, "Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will." Mark 14: 36). Jesus tells his disciples to call El also “father” in the Lord’s Prayer. Baal calls his god “ab” or father too. Both divine fathers of Jesus and Baal (El, the supreme god of the Jews and the Canaanites) are fatherly figure gods who live in Heaven.

C. Jesus is called “Lord” many times by his followers in the Gospels and Jesus is identified with God in the Gospels. Likewise, God is Jesus’ heavenly father.

In the Ugaritic texts, the term b’l=baal can simply mean “Lord” or elsewhere it can be used as a proper name “Baal” where he is the title of the chief god of the Canaanites who is the son of the supreme god El.

D. Jesus descends and returns from the neither world (Hell) (For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. Matt. 12:40 and “By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; I Peter 3:19) so too does Baal descend and return from the underworld.

E. Jesus stills a storm on the Sea of Galilee, so too does Baal control the wind and weather.

F. Jesus intervenes between his followers and God his father. So too does Baal intervene between the people of Ugarit and El his father.

G. Jesus is depicted as King seated on a throne ruling his kingdom and giving righteous judgments. So too is Baal seated on his throne ruling a kingdom with righteous judgments.

H. In the Book of Revelation, Jesus fights and kills the evil serpent / dragon. So too does Baal fight and kill the twisted serpent Ugaritic “ltn btn brh” (Litanu, the serpent or Leviathan).

I. Biblical numbers such as 3, 6, 7 and 40 are used many times in the New Testament are used equally in the Ugaritic text to give divine meaning to these Canaanite texts.