This book is a contribution to the sociology of religion and to religious and biblical studies. Beginning from the classic work of Max Weber, the author analyzes the origins of Judaism in the light of more recent scholarship. Zeitlin sets out to criticize both those modern scholars who have cast doubts on the scriptural account of the history of Israel, and those who hold that the religion of Israel originated either as polytheism or as a fusion of Baal and Yahweh. He finds unconvincing the non-sociological modes of approaching these all-important questions. Following Max Weber's method, Zeitlin strives to grasp the subjective meanings which the actors themselves attributed to their conduct. Drawing on biblical and extra-biblical evidence, he addresses the question of how the actors concerned - whether they were patriachs, prophets, judges, kings or the people - understood themselves, their world and their faith. Weber pioneered the application of this method throughout his writings on the sociology of religion and most notably in his own work "Ancient Judaism".
Over sixty years have elapsed since the publication of that book and in the interval significant changes have taken place in the field of biblical scholarship. Zeitlin therefore completes his study with a critique, suggesting that in certain respects Weber's view must be substantially modified.show more