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Encountering the Divine: Theophany in Biblical Narrative

Encountering the Divine: Theophany in Biblical Narrative

George Savran

| T&T Clark | 2005

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Encountering the Divine: Theophany in Biblical Narrative is George W. Savran’s highly regarded and much sought after monograph about the narratives on humans encountering God, as depicted in the Hebrew Bible. In general terms “theophany” refers to all divine appearances but mostly those occurring as visions, dreams, or other revelations. However, in this study the focus is on scriptural references to actual contact between the human and the divine. Savran’s fascination with the idea of theophany led him to assess biblical descriptions, recognizing and identifying patterns associated with such interactions. These Bible narratives deserve particular attention because they make something known about the participants: the possibility for interaction between two distinct spheres—human and divine—and the effects one sphere has upon the other.

In this well-written book, the literary and theological dynamics of the divine-human encounters are first examined utilizing type-scene analysis to illuminate the common structure within these encounters. The sequence of events in these narratives unfolds in the following specific order. The first event is the isolation of the human protagonist from the rest of humanity. Next, a visual and verbal disclosure is made by the Deity. The human protagonist then reacts with a range of responses to the experience. The final sequence in the scene is exemplified by a more externalized reaction, marking the carrying over of the experience into a larger societal framework. The author identifies the different literary strategies employed in each narrative, and offers a detailed analysis of each component of the type-scene. Also included is dialogue on topics such as the intertextuality of the narratives and the deadly nature of these encounters.