Item description for The God of Old: Inside the Lost World of the Bible by James L. Kugel...
Overview A portrait of God as envisioned by early Israelites describes Him as an accessible inhabitant of a parallel spiritual world who was human-like in appearance and who often made Himself known to people. Reprint. 15,000 first printing.
Publishers Description 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.
Citations And Professional Reviews The God of Old: Inside the Lost World of the Bible by James L. Kugel has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -
Christian Century - 05/17/2005 page 25
New York Times - 07/04/2004 page 20
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Studio: Free Press
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 8.59" Width: 5.43" Height: 0.73" Weight: 0.82 lbs.
Release Date Jul 5, 2004
Publisher Simon & Schuster
ISBN 0743235851 ISBN13 9780743235853
Availability 0 units.
More About James L. Kugel
James Kugel is the Starr Professor of Hebrew Literature at Harvard University and Professor of Bible at Bar Ilan University, Israel. He is the author of Poetry and Prophecy, Early Biblical Interpretation and The Idea of Biblical Poetry, the last available from Johns Hopkins. His The Bible as It Was, an introduction to the Torah's ancient interpreters, was published in 1997.
James L. Kugel currently resides in the state of Massachusetts. James L. Kugel has an academic affiliation as follows - Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan, Israel.
Few people can write as well as Kugel. In discussing the starkness of Psalm 90, Kugel compares the summation of one's life to a painting:
"This canvas is the only thing of our existence that endures. To be sure, it does not endure in any tangible way, since nothing tangible endures in any case. [...] But it is no less real for being intangible--that is the essence of the stark world--in fact, it is only thanks to its intangibility that it does endure, and it is the only thing that matters. [...] when it is done it is ours forever--it is all that is ours, on into howling eternity."
If "on into howling eternity" doesn't conjure up an image of starkness for you, I doubt any words can.
The God of Old examines how our modern concept of God differs from early biblical descriptions. The God of Old will be of interest to anyone who has contemplated this question. An in-depth knowledge of the Old Testament is not required or assumed. It is not excessively long or difficult to read, however you may find yourself re-reading some paragraphs to fully absorb the meaning. If you have any interest in the subject matter, you will enjoy this well-written book.
interesting read Jul 24, 2004
I can recall the experience of afternoon Hebrew school and the small group of us being urged to pontificate on the nature of God - we had several choices, namely, the Watchmaker, the Unmoving Mover, the Captain of a large ship, etc. My utter disappointment in myself at not knowing the correct answer is of course part of this lucid memory. I still retain a certain faith in the nature of right answers but now I appreciate how these right answers can vary, dependent on the multiple realities inherent in them.
Kugel's book attests to the fact that the interaction with and perception of God varies by time, by region, and by the individual. It thereby reveals different versions of the same reality, namely the concept of God, or the sense of the numinous, common to all cultures. Evidentially, Kugel supports his thesis. He states that the relationship of man with God has varied and then he describes ways in which it has. In some cases he attempts to explain the experience through the use of analogy. For example, he compares the experience of a young girl taking care of her dolls and her concept of the true nature of what those dolls represent to the worship in a temple and the creation of another sort of representative reality.
Kugel presents an egalitarian viewpoint whereby one gets the impression that man's relationship with God has changed not improved over time. Far from claiming the greater authenticity of any given interaction with God, Kugel encourages the reader to consider the veracity of them all. Readers are likely to relate more than one of the experiences of God that Kugel describes. There is a youthful version of us, very much dependent on our parents. In this mindset we might imagine a God as a true to life deity presenting itself unawares-initiating requests (i.e. clean your room, lead your people to the promised land). There is perhaps a later version of ourselves when, having much more control over our environment but hoping that 'this can't be it, if so, what then?' This might be much like the medieval worshipper seeking out a response from God hoping he will answer and raise him to a more spiritual level. There is also a reflective version of us, forced to make a major decision in life and thereby reduce things into their mere black and white components. This notion Kugel describes as 'starkness', accounts which omit much of the richness of detail and ambiguity of real life (or what Kugel referes to as the sun world).
All in all, I found this book to be an invitation to use one's imagination. Kugel shows. he does not tell or preach and he does so engagingly. This was a fascinating and revealing book and I look forward to reading more of Kugel's work.
mildly interesting Feb 13, 2004
I didn't find this as enthralling as some other reviewers did, but it still had some nice little words of Torah. The early part of the book was most interesting; Kugel explains that while we think of God as very abstract and very far away, the Bible sometimes shows him suddenly appearing in human form as an angel, going out of its way to blur the distinction between God and other beings. By contrast, later texts tend to more sharply distinguish God and angels from each other and from beings with bodies.
Kugel also explains that while moderns think of man searching for God, the Bible shows God in search of Man (to use R. Heschel's phrase) - often without any indication that the human being contacted has sought such contact. (Though many Midrashim try to show otherwise, indicating some discontent with the idea of unsought prophecy).
As Kugel points out, "As the biblical period goes on, God becomes bigger and more remote (p. 61). . . ungraspably big and far off (p. 63). What changed?
Adoration of this book! Dec 21, 2003
I am only halfway through reading this book, admittedly, but I am stunned by having found someone who so closely discusses my intuitive feelings about God. I do believe that the reason Mr. Kugel has explored his Project so deeply and fruitfully is because he has experienced God himself. Perhaps not as a human being, or even within a burning bush, but he surely knows God. Our world is opening, once again, to KNOWING God as an intimate partner.