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image of Vetus Testamentum

The terms "idolatry" and "syncretism" are widely and sometimes promiscuously used to describe ancient Israelite religious practices; however, the biblical evidence itself is not always clear. Given the Bible's central role in determining the nature of Israelite history, any study of Israelite syncretism and idolatry must begin by asking whether these terms accurately characterize the biblical account. Although images are a widespread feature of many religions, they are not always used as objects of worship. Aside from occasional descriptions of royal practice, biblical references to actual idol worship are largely confined to the prophets, whose tone is heavily polemical. As for syncretism, only 1 Kgs. xviii 21, 2 Kgs. xvi 10, and Zeph. i 5 explicitly condemn the blending of separate traditions. Other biblical authors were primarily concerned with Israel's worshipping the wrong god altogether.


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