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The State Of Judaism During The Development Of Christianity


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Origen said:

"The Jews indeed, but also some of our people, supposed that God should be understood as a man, that is, adorned with human members and human appearance. But the philosophers despise these stories as fabulous and formed in the likeness of poetic fictions."44

44 Origen, Homilies on Genesis 3:1, translated by Ronald E. Heine (Washington D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1982), FC 71:89.

I am interested in knowing exactly what was the degree to which Jews at this time and during Christ's time believed in an anthropomorphic God. Origen labeled all Jews at anthropomorphists, but I suspect it was a huge oversimplification.

What articles, books, (ok preferably links to easy to read articles) or other resources can you suggest that elaborate on this topic?

I found one that FAIR links to.




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I'd hazard that educated Hellenized Jews were more likely to be of an anti-anthropomorpic bent, whereas more traditional Palestinian Jews were mostly anthropomorphic. The Septuagint and Aramaic Targum intentionally obscure several of the anthropomorphisms in the Old Testament. There were some rabbis who allegorized the OT anthropomorphic expressions (among them Ishmael ben Eliza, Jose the Galilean, Judah ben Ilai, and Eliezer ben Hyrcanus), but on the opposite end of the spectrum were some who emphasized, extended, and exaggerated the anthropomorphisms. In this latter category is Rabbi Akiva (50-135 A.D.), whose contributions to the Mishnah and the cementing of the Jewish canon, along with his reputation as the father of rabbinic Judaism and "Head of all the sages," probably contributed to the proliferation of anthropomorphism among Jews by the time of Origen's writing. As early as the second century A.D. a Jewish writer penned the Shiur Komah, which quickly became an important text for anthropomorphic Jews. The Shiur Komah held that God has a body, but that his body is so gigantic that it literally fills the cosmos. It goes on at great length about the, well, great length of God's various limbs and organs.

The Qumran community is much more difficult to nail down.

EDIT: If you like, I can email you "Anthropomorphism in Hellenism and Judaism" by Edwin Yamauchi. Just PM me your address.

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I would tend to agree with the California Kid on this one.

I believe that the Hellenizing influence had permeated much of Judaism (what the KJV refers to as "Grecians") that they would have largely considered God to be formed in the tradition of the Greek God, being omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent and immaterial.

This appears to have been introduced at an early date into Christianity as John in his first epistle argues against Christians who do not believe that Jesus has come in the flesh, calling them "anti-Christ." I think that the question of Jesus being God who came in the flesh conflicted with the Hellenized view of God and hence some Christians were being forced to argue that Jesus did not really come in the flesh at all; an early form of Christian docetism.

All the Best!


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