Thursday, May 5, 2022

In her latest book, God: An Anatomy, British Professor of Hebrew Bible and Ancient Religion at the University of Exeter, Dr. Francesca Stavrakopoulou, discusses the physical description of the Hebrew God, and why so many people, both modern and ancient, have a problem with describing the deity as having a physical form, gender, and even genitalia.

In the interview with Bible & Archaeology Editor Dr. Robert Cargill, the two discuss the description of the deity in the Bible, including an in-depth discussion of many of the biblical texts that describe God in very physical language. There is a discussion of what it means to be "made in the image of God" in Genesis 1, God physically wrestling with Jacob at the River Jabbok and injuring him in Genesis 32, the elders of Israel seeing God, including his feet, in Exodus 24, as well as what the purpose for ancient temples would be if not as a "house" for the deity.

The discussion also looks at the concept of physical representations of the deity, be they anthropomorphic idols or wooden boxes covered in gold like the ark of the covenant that represented the presence of the deity. Finally the discussion looks at how Israelite religion shifted from one that originally embraced, or at least allowed for physical representations of the deity, to one that prohibited idols as the understanding of the Hebrew God shifted to more of a cosmic deity following the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple.

Make sure to check out this timely interview and grab a copy of the new book.