Origen y persistencia del Judaismo. By GREGORIO DEL OLMO LETE. Estella, Navarra: EDITORIAL VERBO DIVINO, 2010. Pp. 478.
Gregorio del Olmo Lete, one of the greatest living authorities on Semitic literature and languages, and particularly on Ugaritic, devotes the volume under review to exploring Judaism from its origin to the present, in its various forms and manifestations. Of course, the emphasis lies on ancient times (two-thirds of the book), but the author's consideration of the cultural influence of Judaism in Western literature is of equal quality.
The formal arrangement of the book is as follows: Part I (chapters 1-7, although the chapters are not numbered!) places the Hebrew people within their ancient Near Eastern context, more specifically the Mesopotamian. Egyptian. and Syro-Canaanite realms. Historical and literary relations are brought to the fore in each instance. According to del Olmo Lete, Israelite religion, as reflected by biblical texts, had its origin in Canaanite religion (cosmogony, eschatology, liturgy), but regarding the biblical idea of God, Israelite religion departs from that of the Canaanites (pp. 67-173). Clearly, these sections on religion and literature are the best parts of this work, showing del Olmo Lete's command of the sources and authority in these matters.
Part II (chapters 8-14) addresses the formative period of biblical literature, together with the formative phase of Judaism as a "national" identity marker (quotation marks are the reviewer's). Del Olmo Lete places the origins of the Bible during Persian rule over the Near East, that is, during the so-called "exilic" and "post-exilic- periods in the traditional terminology of biblical scholarship (ca. sixth to fourth centuries B.c.E.), following a sort of revised documentary hypothesis and locating the places of biblical literary production and scribal activity in Babylon and Palestine. After a brief description of the Hebrew Bible's structure and contents and a resume of the Hellenistic confrontation in Palestine (fourth to second centuries B.c.E.), the author continues with an exposition of the normative phase of Judaism. Normative Judaism is characterized in its theological, liturgical, and ethical aspects, in its ancient and modern contexts, and in its later development and formulations, for instance. Medieval Kabbalah and nationalist Zionism.
Part III (chapters 15-18) revolves around "the actuality of Judaism," primarily the influence of biblical...