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8. Anthropomorphism And Its Eradication

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Chapter Summary

Loyal to the simple meaning of Scripture, rabbinic Judaism as recorded in the talmudic-midrashic corpus presented God anthropomorphically, in visual terms. The Hebrew scriptures declare: 'Thus sayeth the Lord, Israel is my first-born son' (Exodus 4, 22). It is not surprising then that Jacob/Israel as God's chosen, was portrayed in rabbinic teachings as bearing the divine image in a unique sense, including exact facial features, the 'spit and image' of his Creator. This chapter is devoted to Maimonides' struggle against traditional anthropomorphic concepts, in comparison to Augustine's work in the same area. It then discusses a rabbinic passage which should be interpreted as an unrecognized visual presentation of the divine image, with human likenesses indistinguishable in both physique and physiognomy, Jacob being the outstanding representative of this paradigm. This is indeed the original meaning of the legend that Jacob's icon was engraved upon the Divine throne.

Keywords: anthropomorphic concepts; Augustine; creator; divine image; Exodus; Hebrew scriptures; Jacob/Israel; Maimonides; rabbinic Judaism; talmudic-midrashic corpus



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