Rivetingly fresh and stunning . . . I rather like this inexhaustibly powerful, shouting, bearded giant of a God, a fiery, fierce and startlingly “pagan” God, alive to his very fingertips, laughing at human hubris and singing with unbridled joy.A marvelous conspectus of references to the divine body in ancient southwest Asian texts. But more than this, it is about recalibrating our understanding of these difficult texts to better understand ourselves.Professors of Theology are imagined to be dull, gentle souls. This book, however, is a great rebel shout . . . A book that aims to upend the notion of a cloudy, spiritualised creator . . . instructive, vivid and frequently hilarious.
Stavrakopoulou is no literalist — indeed, she’s an atheist — but she maintains that her reading makes far more sense than the traditional ones, and her confident tone never falters.God: An Anatomy is a tour de force. Stavrakopoulou has created not just an extraordinarily rich and nuanced portrait of Yahweh himself, but an intricate and detailed account of the cultural values and practices he embodied, and the wider world of myth and history out of which he emerged . . . Stavrakopoulou has taken to heart the biblical injunction to seek the face of God, and what emerges is a deity more terrifyingly alive, more damaged, more compelling, more complex than we have encountered before. More human, you might say.A detailed and scrupulously researched book . . . packed with knowledge and insightBoldly simple in concept, God: An Anatomy is stunning in its execution. It is a tour de force, a triumph, and I write this as one who disagrees with Stavrakopoulou both on broad theoretical grounds and one who finds himself engaged with her in one narrow textual spat after another . . . A stunning book.The sheer amount of primary evidence examined is staggering . . . Stavrakopoulou’s argumentation is intellectually penetrating, analytically robust, and sophisticated . . . Stavrakopoulou’s book, and her public-facing scholarship, demonstrate what makes an outstanding biblical scholar.Good Lord, Stavrakopoulou touches that sweet spot that is scholarly, funny, visceral and heavenly. A revelation.One of the most remarkable historians and communicators working today.In both Judaism and Christianity God is conceived as non-physical. In God: An Anatomy Francesca Stavrakopoulou shows that this was not yet so in the Bible, where God appears in a much more corporeal form. This provocative work will surprise and may shock, but it brings to light aspects of the biblical account of God that modern readers seldom appreciate.In Stavrakopoulou's stunning dissection of historical religious texts, the real back-story and context of the God of Judaism and Christianity is revealed . . . Where pious theologians have abstracted him into emptiness, Stavrakopolou gives him back his substance, and he’s so much more interesting in this bodily form! Both scholarly and accessible, and full of fascinating stories - I guarantee you’ll never think of this God the same way again.Marvelous and stimulating . . . scholarly and beautifully illustrated . . . an exciting read!This is an extraordinary book. It’ll rewire your thinking, and it’s so readable you won’t notice till it’s too late.Well-researched . . . A refreshing look at ancient Scripture and the people behind it, reminding readers that the concept of ‘God’ in the 21st century is a world away from that of the earliest people of Israel. A challenging, engaging work of scholarship that sheds new light on ancient Hebrew conceptions of the divine.A fascinating, surprising and often controversial examination of the real God of the Bible, in all his bodily, uncensored, scandalous forms.
Winner of The PEN Hessell-Tiltman Prize 2022
Shortlisted for The Wolfson History Prize 2022
A The Times Books of the Year 2022
Three thousand years ago, in the Southwest Asian lands we now call Israel and Palestine, a group of people worshipped a complex pantheon of deities, led by a father god called El. El had seventy children, who were gods in their own right. One of them was a minor storm deity, known as Yahweh. Yahweh had a body, a wife, offspring and colleagues. He fought monsters and mortals. He gorged on food and wine, wrote books, and took walks and naps. But he would become something far larger and far more abstract: the God of the great monotheistic religions.
But as Professor Francesca Stavrakopoulou reveals, God’s cultural DNA stretches back centuries before the Bible was written, and persists in the tics and twitches of our own society, whether we are believers or not. The Bible has shaped our ideas about God and religion, but also our cultural preferences about human existence and experience; our concept of life and death; our attitude to sex and gender; our habits of eating and drinking; our understanding of history. Examining God’s body, from his head to his hands, feet and genitals, she shows how the Western idea of God developed. She explores the places and artefacts that shaped our view of this singular God and the ancient religions and societies of the biblical world. And in doing so she analyses not only the origins of our oldest monotheistic religions, but also the origins of Western culture.
Beautifully written, passionately argued and frequently controversial, God: An Anatomy is cultural history on a grand scale.
'Rivetingly fresh and stunning' – Sunday Times
'One of the most remarkable historians and communicators working today' – Dan Snow