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What to expect

Rivetingly fresh and stunning’ Sunday Times
‘A tour de force, a triumph’ Catholic Herald
‘One of the most remarkable historians and communicators working today’ Dan Snow

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.

Critics Review

  • A learned but rollicking journey through every aspect of Yahweh’s body. A book that will offend some but delight more.

    Economist Best Books of the Year
  • Lively . . . [with] a wealth of scholarly detail and much gusto

    New Statesman
  • 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.

    Sunday Times
  • 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 . . . Reading Stavrakopoulou’s book is nonetheless an enriching and disturbing, at times pleasurable and always thought-provoking experience.

    Literary Review
  • 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.

  • 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.

    New Humanist

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