Arrived: Bodies of God!
My copy of Benjamin Sommer's Bodies of God book has arrived, a text whose review I noted in a recent blog entry. I don't recall if I quoted any of the words from the Cambridge University Press advertising copy (though I think not), but here they are in full:
Sommer utilizes a lost ancient Near Eastern perception of divinity according to which a god has more than one body and fluid, unbounded selves. Though the dominant strains of biblical religion rejected it, a monotheistic version of this theological intuition is found in some biblical texts. Later Jewish and Christian thinkers inherited this ancient way of thinking; ideas such as the sefirot in Kabbalah and the trinity in Christianity represent a late version of this theology. This book forces us to rethink the distinction between monotheism and polytheism, as this notion of divine fluidity is found in both polytheistic cultures (Babylonia, Assyria, Canaan) and monotheistic ones (biblical religion, Jewish mysticism, Christianity), whereas it is absent in some polytheistic cultures (classical Greece). The Bodies of God and the World of Ancient Israel has important repercussions not only for biblical scholarship and comparative religion but for Jewish-Christian dialogue.I'll be reading Sommer's book in the near future and blogging when I have something to say, but today, I can only note that Ben has mentioned me in his "Acknowledgements" as one one of the many people with whom be talked, conversations that in my case took place in Jerusalem more than ten years ago when I spent a year there as a Golda Meir Fellow (aka Lady Davis Fellow) at Hebrew University (Mt. Scopus Campus):
While writing this book, I have benefitted from conversations with many friends and colleagues . . . . Useful feedback came from . . . H. Jeffrey Hodges . . . . (Benjamin D. Sommer, The Bodies of God and the World of Ancient Israel, New York: Cambridge University Press, March 2011, page xiv)That's me . . . despite the "-rey" ending. Everyone makes this mistake, so I'm fighting a losing battle over the spelling of my name. Moreover, Ben is being excessively generous. I didn't contribute much, barely enough to mention. But I appreciate Ben's words -- as well as the recommendation that he wrote for me back around 2001 when I was still vainly striving to make my scholarly way in religious studies. I had hoped to contribute to Jewish-Christian dialogue of the sort alluded to in the advertising copy above.
My aim these days is to be a competent teacher, editor, and blogger as well as wise old man. On that last goal, I'm at least halfway there -- my students consider me old!