It is commonly held that ancient Israelites believed that God was invisible. During the Israelites’ wanderings in the Sinai desert, the Bible notes that they were led by the divine presence which appeared to them as a pillar of fire. The Bible also mentions that Moses himself affirmed God’s invisibility. “The Lord spoke to you out of the fire; you heard the sound of words but perceived no shape—nothing but a voice” (Deut 4:12). He also noted that they “… saw no shape when the Lord your God spoke to you at Horeb out of the fire...” (Deut 4:15). The second of the Ten Commandments forbids making idolatrous images, but the biblical authors nonetheless often chided the Israelites for continuing to make and worship images. Moreover, the nations surrounding Israel knew what their gods looked like, and they commonly made images of these gods. But did the Israelites imagine the Divine appearance? In other words, did they think that God had a physical presence, a body? In this lecture Prof. Ziony Zevit will demonstrate that the ancient Israelites believed that God was not only visible to many, but also that they had a sense of what he looked like.
Prof. Ziony Zevit (Ph.D. University of California, Berkeley) is the Distinguished Professor of Bible and Northwest Semitic Languages at the American Jewish University in Los Angeles. He has also taught at the University of Haifa, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and U.C. Berkeley. He has received numerous prestigious research fellowships, including the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Lady Davis Fellowship Trust, and the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation. Zevit is the author of numerous scholarly books and articles that focus on the Hebrew Bible, Semitic Languages, Archaeology, and Israelite Religion. His monumental The Religions of Ancient Israel: A Parallactic Approach, has set the standard for the modern interdisciplinary study of popular and folk religion in ancient Israel. In recognition of his scholarly accomplishments, he was awarded the Frank Moore Cross Award by the American Schools of Oriental Research.
This lecture will begin at 7 P.M. and will take place at the Tucson Jewish Community Center located at 3800 East River Road.