A History of God: the 4000-year quest of Judaism, by Karen Armstrong

By Karen Armstrong

"An admirable and ambitious paintings of synthesis that would provide perception and delight to hundreds of thousands of lay readers."THE WASHINGTON submit booklet WORLDIn this stunningly clever ebook, Karen Armstrong, certainly one of Britain's greatest commentators on spiritual affairs, lines the background of the way women and men have perceived and skilled God, from the time of Abraham to the current. From classical philsophy and medieval mysticism to the Reformation, the Enlightenment, and the trendy age of skepticism, Karen Armstrong plays the close to miracle of distilling the highbrow historical past of monotheism into one fantastically readable quantity, destined to take its position as a vintage.

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Example text

There is, however, some humour in this mythical account of the origin of humanity, which is by no means the pinnacle of creation but derives from one of the most stupid and ineffectual of the gods. But the story made another important point. The first man had been created from the substance of a god: he therefore shared the divine nature, in however limited a way. There was no gulf between human beings and the gods. The natural world, men and women and the gods themselves all shared the same nature and derived from the same divine substance.

Because this is such a big subject, I have deliberately confined myself to the One God worshipped by Jews, Christians and Muslims, though I have occasionally considered pagan, Hindu and Buddhist conceptions of ultimate reality to make a monotheistic point clearer. It seems that the idea of God is remarkably close to ideas in religions that developed quite independently. Whatever conclusions we reach about the reality of God, the history of this idea must tell us something important about the human mind and the nature of our aspiration.

On one occasion, he had decided to return to Haran to find a wife among his relatives there. On the first leg of his journey, he slept at Luz near the Jordan valley, using a stone as a pillow. That night he dreamed of a ladder which stretched between earth and heaven: angels were going up and down between the realms of god and man. We cannot but be reminded of Marduk's ziggurat: on its summit, suspended as it were between heaven and earth, a man could meet his gods. At the top of his own ladder, Jacob dreamed that he saw El, who blessed him and repeated the promises that he had made to Abraham: Jacob's descendants would become a mighty nation and possess the land of Canaan.

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