maklelan Posted February 10, 2010 Share Posted February 10, 2010 The Society of Biblical Literature's Review of Biblical Literature was just sent out, and an interesting highlight on the list is a review by Gilbert Lozano of Benjamin Sommer's The Bodies of God and the World of Ancient Israel. This book's been out for a while, and it discusses the concept of embodied deities in the ancient Near East and its implications for interpreting the Hebrew Bible. It's a really good read. The author argues that the fact that YHWH had a body is a clear and important aspect of the biblical text. He posits that YHWH is one of the men in Genesis 18, which is something I agree with, but he tries to present YHWH as transcending corporeality and only taking it upon himself to interact in certain capacities with humanity. This is most clearly argued in his discussion of the "angel of YHWH" as a kind of avatar for YHWH, which is almost identical to the position James Kugel presented a few months ago here at Oxford. I think this approach tries to conceptually harmonize disparate ideologies that most likely weren't meant to be harmonized. Specifically, different names and representations of God probably shouldn't be interpreted as equally valid expositions of different facets of a unified and systematic theology. I don't like most of the conclusions people reach about hypostases and the like this early in the theology of the ancient Near East. I also think it suffers from a bit of presentism in trying to retroject later ideas about the transcendence of God into early texts that probably thought less about God's ontology than about his protection and blessings. The review is kinda sloppy and doesn't really evaluate the author's approach. It felt like a book report written by a student (and this after I was intimidated away from requesting a book to review for RBL). Charles Halton got pretty much the same impression from the review and points to his own review, which I think is much more helpful (as usual). Note one of the comment at the bottom by Alan Lenzi, an author of another important book dealing with the Divine Council in Mesopotamia and Israel called Secrecy and the Gods. Link to comment
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