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God: An Anatomy - As heard on Radio 4

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Music choices include Tallis, Beethoven, Elgar, and Handel’s portrayal of her favourite Biblical heroine, Athalia. W]e note that humanity occupies a unique status in contrast with all the other created beings on the earth: being made in the image and according to the likeness of God. The basic likeness is in physical appearance, as the study of the etymology and usage of both terms shows. … These terms are used in cognate languages of statues representing gods and humans in contemporary inscriptions, and certainly the intention is to say that God and man share a common physical appearance. 8 Stavrakopoulou has taken to heart the biblical injunction to seek the face of God, and what emerges is a deity more terrifyingly alive, more damaged, more compelling, more complex than we have encountered before. More human, you might say. If you are exploring topics connected to sexual ethics, particularly going beyond a focus on heterosexuality, the work of Dr Susanna Cornwell and Marcella Althaus-Reid are both eminently relevant.

Paulsen, “ Doctrine of Divine Embodiment,” 41–79, which is a significant expansion of Paulsen, “Early Christian Belief in a Corporeal Deity.” Paulsen also critiques the philosophical arguments against an embodied God in Paulsen, “ Doctrine of Divine Embodiment,” 81–94, an adaptation of David Paulsen, “Must God Be Incorporeal?,” Faith and Philosophy6, no. 1 (1989): 76–87. This is an extraordinary book. It’ll rewire your thinking, and it’s so readable you won’t notice till it’s too late.” — Tim Whitmarsh, author of Battling the Gods

God,” like God, offers a host of surprising revelations. And the timing of this award — in the season of Christmas and Hanukkah — feels strangely ordained. Three thousand years ago, in the Southwest Asian lands we now call Israel and Palestine, a group of people worshipped a complex pantheon of deities, led by a father god called El. El had seventy children, who were gods in their own right. One of them, a minor storm deity known as Yahweh, had a body, a wife, offspring and colleagues. He fought monsters and mortals, gorged on food and wine, wrote books, and took walks and naps. He would become something far larger and far more abstract: the God of the great monotheistic religions. See BrantA. Gardner, Second Witness: Analytical and Contextual Commentary, 6 vols. (Salt Lake City, UT: Greg Kofford Books, 2007), 6:191–194; AaronP. Schade and MatthewL. Bowen, The Book of Moses: From the Ancient of Days to the Latter Days(Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book; Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2021), 134–137. The God we worship is a glorified Being in whom all power and perfection dwell, and he has created man in his own image and likeness (Gen. 1:26–27), with those characteristics and attributes which he himself possesses. And so our belief in the dignity and destiny of [humankind] is an essential part both of our theology and of our way of life. It is the very basis of our Lord’s teaching that “the first and great commandment” is: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind”; and that the second great commandment is: “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matt. 22:37–39). 18 Further Reading

But that divine studmuffin began to deflate toward the close of the first millennium BCE and into the first centuries of the Common Era. Influenced by erudite Greek philosophy, Jewish and Christian intellectuals “began to re-imagine their deity in increasingly incorporeal, immaterial terms.” Since the Enlightenment, that transformation has grown more radical, Stavrakopoulou claims. “Prominent Western intellectuals have not only rendered the biblical God lifeless, but reduced him to a mere phantom, conjured by the human imagination.” See Alon Goshen Gottstein, “The Body as Image of God in Rabbinic Literature,” Harvard Theological Review87, no. 2 (1994): 171–195; DavidL. Paulsen, “Early Christian Belief in a Corporeal Deity: Origen and Augustine as Reluctant Witnesses,” Harvard Theological Review83, no. 2 (1990): 105–116; CarlW. Griffin and David L. Paulsen, “Augustine and the Corporeality of God,” Harvard Theological Review95, no. 1 (2002): 97–118. What the judges said: “A riveting micro-history, brilliantly set within the broader social and cultural history of witchcraft. Drawing on previously neglected source material, this book is elegantly written and full of intelligent analysis.” If you are studying Kant, Baroness Onora O’Neill is a must as she provides numerous examples of how his work applies to modern dilemmas. She also highlights how, for this philosopher, freedom means acting according to universal rational principles, rather than doing what you want – an interesting thought for those considering debates surrounding Covid vaccinations. An intellectually subtle and imaginatively original writer such as the prophet Ezekiel (6th century BC) can deploy deliberately symbolic and archaic narratives of male divine violence against an abused and rejected female who stands for the “unfaithful” people of Israel, in ways that have prompted anxiously sanitising interpretations for most of the last two millennia.

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David Cannadine (chair) | Dodge Professor of History at Princeton University, a Visiting Professor of History at the University of Oxford, the editor of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

Behold, I am Jesus Christ. … Seest thou that ye are created after mine own image? Yea, even all men were created in the beginning after mine own image. Behold, this body, which ye now behold, is the body of my spirit; and man have I created after the body of my spirit; and even as I appear unto thee to be in the spirit will I appear unto my people in the flesh. (Ether 3:14–16) This is a very interesting book. The Ottoman Turks were a very long-lasting and important dynasty, who ruled for seven centuries. And the book unfolds a sweeping narrative stressing the importance of the Ottoman dynasty, both in relation to Middle Eastern countries, but also its role in European history. For many Europeans for about half a millennium, the Ottomans represented the exotic, dangerous and non-Christian Orient. They were the enemy to fear. The book draws out six key moments in Ottoman history as important. Hugh B. Brown, “ The Gospel Is for All Men,” April 1969 general conference, online at scripture.byu.edu. In this whole book God is anthropomorphised. Through a close examination of the Bible, Stavrakopoulou writes about the various gods depicted in ancient myths and rituals. They came from a particular time, and they were made in the image of the people who lived then, who were shaped by their circumstances and experience of the world. She argues that important people in the Hebrew Bible were not historical figures and that probably very little of the Hebrew Bible is historical fact. She bases this on arguments that ancient writers had an understanding of ‘fact’ and ‘fiction’ very different from a modern definition of those terms.

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But this heavily metaphorized and intellectualized reading of scripture, so instinctually favored by Jews and Christians, is inevitably post-Biblical. It is an imposition on the Biblical texts by a later theological tradition, not a reflection of the religious understanding of the Biblical authors themselves. The latter related to their God in ways that were inescapably anatomical and interpersonal. Their God was a supersized humanoid being; one Who was only selectively visible to the worthiest of mortals, often wreathing Himself in storm clouds or compelling His worshippers to divert their gaze with His brilliant, luminescent aura, but Who was no less corporeal as a result. This was a God Who led His people into battle; Who swore oaths and made covenants with them, Who shared meals and prayed with them, Who participated in their sacrifices, walked with them, fought with them, stalked through their camps in the night; Who baited and snared the thalassic chaos monster that terrorized the peoples of the ancient near east for centuries; Who boasted an enormous appetite for food and sex commensurate with His outsized body; and Who held court from His cherubic throne in the sanctuary of Solomon’s temple: not only in the ethereal visions of Isaiah and Ezekiel, but also likely in the form of a cult statue that a few sanctified visitors could glimpse through a haze of incense and a darkness meagerly abated by lamplight. Boldly simple in concept, God: An Anatomy is stunning in its execution. It is a tour de force, a triumph, and I write this as one who disagrees with Stavrakopoulou both on broad theoretical grounds and one who finds himself engaged with her in one narrow textual spat after another. Let me place the theoretical issues on the record briefly and then move on to the spats, for they are really what makes this book fun to read. Interestingly, we're never told the amount of the wager. Is it for the Satan to get a day on the throne of Yahweh, a day with his feet on Yahweh's footstool, to riff on discussions by Stavra? An astonishing and revelatory history that re-presents God as he was originally envisioned by ancient worshippers—with a distinctly male body, and with superhuman powers, earthly passions, and a penchant for the fantastic and monstrous. The choice of statues is very wide ranging, geographically, including among others Stalin, George V, Lenin, Saddam Hussein and George Washington. I cannot resist pointing out that it is not surprising that the statues are all of men. Above all, it is worth reading this book for the light it shines on the function of statues today, as well as yesterday, and the book does seek to discuss the contemporary debate and the rewriting of the past by the present. It also looks at the curious absence of historical awareness on the part of many of those who are still determined to topple statues. It is a kind of a commentary, if you like, on ‘wokeness’, I think. As the military historian, Dan Snow, so rightly put it, “Like all the best historians, von Tunzelmann uses the past to explain what’s going on today”. I found this book intelligent, illuminating and thoroughly enjoyable.

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