The Bodies of God and the World of Ancient Israel

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Cambridge University Press, Jun 29, 2009 - Religion - 334 pages
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In The Bodies of God and the World of Ancient Israel, Benjamin D. Sommer investigates the notion of a deity's body and self in ancient Israel, Canaan, and Mesopotamia. He uncovers a lost ancient Near Eastern perception of divinity according to which an essential difference between gods and humans was that gods had more than one body and fluid, unbounded selves. Though the dominant strains of biblical religion rejected it, a monotheistic version of this theological intuition is found in some biblical texts. Later Jewish and Christian thinkers inherited this ancient way of thinking; ideas such as the sefirot in kabbalah and the trinity in Christianity represent a late version of this theology. This book forces us to rethink the distinction between monotheism and polytheism, as this notion of divine fluidity is found in both polytheistic cultures (Babylonia, Assyria, Canaan) and monotheistic ones (biblical religion, Jewish mysticism, Christianity), whereas it is absent in some polytheistic cultures (classical Greece). The Bodies of God and the World of Ancient Israel has important repercussions not only for biblical scholarship and comparative religion but for Jewish-Christian dialogue.

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Gods Body and the Bibles Interpreters
Mesopotamia and Canaan
2 The Fluidity Model in Ancient Israel
3 The Rejection of the Fluidity Model in Ancient Israel
Tent Ark and Temple
Difficult Beginnings
Implications and Afterlife
Monotheism and Polytheism in Ancient Israel

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About the author (2009)

Benjamin D. Sommer is Professor in the Department of Bible and Ancient Semitic Languages at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.

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