God in Biblical Theology

Dr. Benjamin Sommer, Professor of Bible at the Jewish Theological Seminary, wrote a thought-provoking piece for Mixed Multitudes about the God of the Bible:

I just finished a book, The Bodies of God and the World of Ancient Israel, which will be published next year by Cambridge University Press. In it I describe an ancient Near Eastern perception of divinity that shows up in certain parts of the Bible, according to which a god (or, in its biblical version, God) differs from a human because a god can have more than one body, each one located at some specific place on earth or in heaven.

Prof. Sommer believes that this topic is important not only for academic research, but also because it provides a new perspective for the modern Jew.  For example, the idea of sacred space:

The centrality of sacred space is important for many Jews on the left, who fail to acknowledge the holiness of the Land of Israel as a crucial aspect of Jewish belief. The relativizing of sacred space, on the other hand, is important for certain Jews on the right, who need to hear this critique lest they continue to promote their idolatry of the Land of Israel.

And the definition of a Jew’s relationship with God:

This is a God whom we can love and be angry with and speak with, a God with whom we can have a relationship, because a being with a body is a being like us. An embodied being can be wounded and can change. In short, the embodied God is the personal God of our father Abraham (and of Abraham Joshua Heschel).

Another interesting point made by Sommer is that although mainstream Judaism may have moved away from the perception of a god of many bodies, the concept still exists in kabbalah and in Christianity.  Later Jewish thought has developed, integrating biblical theology and other philosophies into a Jewish theology for the modern Jew.

Explore posts in the same categories: Research

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