God: A Biography

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WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE

What sort of "person" is God? What is his "life story"? Is it possible to approach him not as an object of religious reverence, but as the protagonist of the world's greatest book—as a character who possesses all the depths, contradictions, and abiguities of a Hamlet? This is the task that Jack Miles—a former Jesuit trained in religious studies and Near Eastern languages—accomplishes with such brilliance and originality in God: A Biography.

Using the Hebrew Bible as his text, Miles shows us a God who evolves through his relationship with man, the image who in time becomes his rival. Here is the Creator who nearly destroys his chief creation; the bloodthirsty warrior and the protector of the downtrodden; the lawless law-giver; the scourge and the penitent. Profoundly learned, stylishly written, the resulting work illuminates God and man alike and returns us to the Bible with a sense of discovery and wonder.
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About the author

Jack Miles is a writer whose work has appeared in numerous national publications, including The Atlantic Monthly, the The New York TimesThe Boston GlobeThe Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times, where he served for ten years as literary editor and as a member of the newspaper’s editorial board. The recipient of a Ph.D. in Near Eastern languages from Harvard University and a former Jesuit, he has been a Regents Lecturer at the University of California, director of the Humanities Center at Claremont Graduate University, and visiting professor of humanities at the California Institute of Technology. His first book, God: A Biography, won a Pulitzer Prize and has been translated into fifteen languages. Currently senior advisor to the president of the J. Paul Getty Trust, a foundation supporting art and scholarship, Dr. Miles lives with his wife and daughter in Southern California.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Vintage
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Published on
Mar 30, 2011
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Pages
464
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ISBN
9780307789136
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Religious
Religion / History
Religion / Theology
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Why does God exist? How have the three dominant monotheistic religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—shaped and altered the conception of God? How have these religions influenced each other? In this stunningly intelligent book, Karen Armstrong, one of Britain's foremost commentators on religious affairs, traces the history of how men and women have perceived and experienced God, from the time of Abraham to the present. 

The epic story begins with the Jews' gradual transformation of pagan idol worship in Babylon into true monotheism—a concept previously unknown in the world. Christianity and Islam both rose on the foundation of this revolutionary idea, but these religions refashioned 'the One God' to suit the social and political needs of their followers. From classical philosophy and medieval mysticism to the Reformation, Karen Armstrong performs the near miracle of distilling the intellectual history of monotheism into one superbly readable volume, destined to take its place as a classic.

Praise for History of God

“An admirable and impressive work of synthesis that will give insight and satisfaction to thousands of lay readers.”—The Washington Post Book World

“A brilliantly lucid, spendidly readable book. [Karen] Armstrong has a dazzling ability: she can take a long and complex subject and reduce it to the fundamentals, without oversimplifying.”—The Sunday Times (London)

“Absorbing . . . A lode of learning.”—Time

“The most fascinating and learned study of the biggest wild goose chase in history—the quest for God. Karen Armstrong is a genius.”—A.N. Wilson, author of Jesus: A Life
Sex. Violence. Scandal. These are words we rarely associate with the sacred text of the Bible. Yet in this brilliant new book, Jonathan Kirsch shows that the Old Testament is filled with some of the most startling and explicit stories in all of Western literature. These tales of seduction and rape, voyeurism and exhibitionism, intermarriage and illegitimacy, assassination and murder have been suppressed by religious authorities throughout history precisely because they are so shocking. "You mean that's in the Bible?" is the common reaction of the contemporary reader to the stories that Kirsch retells and explores.

In The Harlot by the Side of the Road, Kirsch recounts these suppressed and mistranslated tales in the grand storytelling tradition. Here is the tale of Dinah, the young Israelite daughter raped by a princely suitor. The price for her hand in marriage? The circumcision of every man in his kingdom. Here, too, is the story of Lot's daughters, who, when faced with the possibility that they are the last survivors on earth, must copulate with their drunken father to continue their race. And the story of Tamar, the harlot by the side of the road, who must disguise herself as a prostitute and seduce her father-in-law in order to bear the child who has been promised her.

Kirsch places each story within the political and social context of its time, and delves into the latest biblical scholarship to explain why each story was originally censored. He also brings to light when and where each story was first written down, and how it found its way into the Bible. And he shows how these stories have something important to say to contemporary readers who might never pick up a Bible.

Kirsch reveals that the Bible's real power lies in its unflinching lessons in human nature. And he illuminates the surprising modernity of the Bible's characters: these were, like us, people delicately balanced between their destructive and generous natures. Certain to excite controversy and ignite intellectual debate, The Harlot by the Side of the Road will undoubtedly be one of the year's most talked-about books.


From the Hardcover edition.
A nuanced exploration of the part that religion plays in human life, drawing on the insights of the past in order to build a faith that speaks to the needs of our dangerously polarized age.
 
Moving from the Paleolithic age to the present, Karen Armstrong details the great lengths to which humankind has gone in order to experience a sacred reality that it called by many names, such as God, Brahman, Nirvana, Allah, or Dao. Focusing especially on Christianity but including Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Chinese spiritualities, Armstrong examines the diminished impulse toward religion in our own time, when a significant number of people either want nothing to do with God or question the efficacy of faith. Why has God become unbelievable? Why is it that atheists and theists alike now think and speak about God in a way that veers so profoundly from the thinking of our ancestors?

Answering these questions with the same depth of knowledge and profound insight that have marked all her acclaimed books, Armstrong makes clear how the changing face of the world has necessarily changed the importance of religion at both the societal and the individual level.  Yet she cautions us that religion was never supposed to provide answers that lie within the competence of human reason; that, she says, is the role of logos. The task of religion is “to help us live creatively, peacefully, and even joyously with realities for which there are no easy explanations.” She emphasizes, too, that religion will not work automatically. It is, she says, a practical discipline: its insights are derived not from abstract speculation but from “dedicated intellectual endeavor” and a “compassionate lifestyle that enables us to break out of the prism of selfhood.”


From the Trade Paperback edition.
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