Images of the body in ancient Near Eastern civilizations are radically different from body images today, which in turn creates significant consequences for our understanding of the biblical notion of God’s human shape and the frequent and widespread misconceptions therein. Andreas Wagner illuminates such frequent and widespread misconceptions, and reveals the sometimes distant pictorial world of ancient body images. He contrasts these with contemporary models and makes the matter of the Old Testament concept of God's human form accessible and clear.
Wagner begins by introducing readers to aspects of anthropomorphism, the study of body parts, and Israel’s basic understanding of the human body. He then turns specifically to the body of God, analysing why and how certain body parts are emphasized or regularly employed in the biblical text when it tries to describe God. Wagner draws out the theological aspects of the ways in which God’s body is described as well as considering the diverse range of ancient Near Eastern perspectives on God, and the ways in which ancient cultures constructed and understood deities. Wagner concludes by looking at how the depiction of God in the Old Testament fits with the concept of mankind made in God's image. Enhanced by over fifty illustrations, God's Body will lead the debate in biblical anthropomorphism for years to come.
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In this eminently readable and engaging work, Wagner offers to a wide audience an informed overview of Israelite reflections on divine embodiment within the context of ancient Near Eastern religions.
—Review of Biblical Literature
This study book on the metaphors and language imagery of the Hebrew Bible, in comparison with the pictorial representations of the Ancient Near East, is to be [...] appreciated. One finds in this book valuable explanations of how gods were portrayed in the Ancient Near East, differentiated between Egypt and Mesopotamia, and how, in comparison, the body of God is linguistically described in the Hebrew Bible.
—Christoph Auffarth, Angesagt, Buchempfehlungen Religion, Germany
Andreas Wagner advocates taking seriously the Old Testament ideas of the human form of God. But modern misunderstandings have to be dispelled. Ancient Oriental images are not visuals but visuals before the emergence of Greek pictorial tradition [...] This inspiring study concludes that, all in all, it is therefore a theologically most demanding achievement to maintain the (mental) image of the body of God, to think a prohibition of images in the sense of a cult image prohibition, and to carry out the whole in strict monotheism.
—Ludger Schwienhorst-Schönberger, Christ in der Gegenwart, Germany
Andreas Wagner is Professor in Hebrew Bible at the University of Bern, Switzerland.