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The God of Old: Inside the Lost World of the…

The God of Old: Inside the Lost World of the Bible (2003)

by James Kugel

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Each chapter explores at least one idea. It feels to me that Kugel is developing his ideas as he writes this book and we are along for the ride. His use of the term starkness seems to be an attempt to use an existing word for a concept that doesn't quite fit the word, but he hasn't found anything better. Notes can be found at the end, where the relevant sentence from the text is followed by sources and comments; i.e., if you just read the book, you don't know what is footnoted.

Some of his ideas:
Chapter 2: When God appears to someone, that person has a "moment of confusion" before realizing that God has appeared. There is no requirement for God to appear---only later does it seem necessary that the viewer is worthy.
Chapter 3: The person who sees God is "not searching for God," but only minding his (or her) own business.
Chapter 4: While God can appear as a man---hence the moment of confusion above as someone realizes that he has been talking to God and not a man, there are "no graven images" of the Jewish God, even if there are graven images to be found in ancient Israelite sites.
Chapter 5: God is required to act to correct injustice if he hears "the cry of the victim."
Chapter 6: While exploring "the soul's journey," Kugel discusses the idea of starkness, which I think is a way of viewing the world in stark distinctions of good and bad, instead of the more mundane way that we usually live our lives.
Chapter 7, The Last Look: In the Bible, the dead and those close to death, seem to know the future; e.g., Samuel's ghost tells Saul what is going to happen to Saul. As God becomes more remote, angels become closer to people and assume "specific names and functions." [p. 194] ( )
  raizel | Jul 20, 2014 |
I picked up "The God of Old" because I loved Kugel's "How to Read the Bible" and this promised to look deeper into some ideas that were mentioned in the latter. While interesting and enjoyable - Kugel is a charismatic and engaging writer - it felt like it wasn't entirely developed. Several concepts are convincingly introduced, but they're never quite tied together. Kugel admits this in the last chapter and writes that he hopes they will be of use to others; this might be enough for scholars, but it leaves laymen such as myself hanging. ( )
  giovannigf | Jun 23, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0743235851, Paperback)

Our notion of God today -- all-powerful, invisible, and omnipresent -- is not the same as the God of the Hebrew Bible. So who is this "God of Old?" And what is His place in the modern spiritual world?

James Kugel is renowned for his investigations into the history of the biblical era, a time beginning more than three thousand years ago, when the Bible's earliest parts first took shape. With The God of Old, Kugel goes even deeper, attempting to enter the pages of the Old Testament and see God as the Israelites first encountered him.

The God of Old appeared to people unexpectedly; He was not sought out. Often He was not even recognized, at first mistaken for an ordinary human being. The realm of the divine was not as it is today -- a spiritual dimension set off from the material world. The spiritual and the material overlapped, and the realm of the dead was a real domain just beyond the world of the living. Ordinary reality was in constant danger of sliding into something else, something stark but oddly familiar. And God was always standing just behind the curtain of the everyday world.

In this groundbreaking study, Kugel suggests that this alternative spirituality is not simply an archaic relic, replaced by a "better" understanding. Kugel's picture of the God of Old has much to tell us about God's very nature, and about the encounter between Him and human beings in today's world.

A book to treasure side by side with the Bible, The God of Old is sure to engage scholars and spiritual seekers alike for years to come.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:46 -0400)

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